Town Lake Photography
Town Lake (aka, “Lady Bird Lake”) is one of Austin’s most precious resources and one of her not-so-hidden gems. And it’s one of my favorite outdoor locations to take brides and grooms for engagement photography sessions!
Downloadable PDF trail map here.
Some of the wonderful features offered by the lake are its convenience (located in the heart of Austin near downtown), beauty, cleanliness (clean water, air, environment, etc.), trails for hiking and walking, open space and so much more. I like it for all those reasons and because it makes my photographed subjects (usually newly engaged couples) feel relaxed and somewhat connected to nature, a feeling which manifests in the photos.
The lake is named after Lady Bird Johnson who was chair of the Town Lake Beautification Project, a community effort to create hike and bike trails and to plant flowering trees along the Colorado River in Austin, Texas. Mrs. Johnson is also the founder of the National Wildflower Research Center, a non-profit environmental organization formed in 1982.
Town Lake (now Lady Bird Lake), downstream and south of the Highland Lakes on the Colorado River, was formed in 1960 by the construction of Longhorn Dam. The surface area covered by the lake is over 400 acres and is owned and operated by the City of Austin in cooperation with the Lower Colorado River Authority. It was created by the City of Austin for the purpose of being a cooling pond for the Holly Street Power Plant.
In the early 1970s the Town Lake Beautification Project was a recommendation made to the Austin City Council in commemoration of the upcoming United States Bicentennial Celebration which would occur in 1976. In 1971 when Roy Butler became Mayor of Austin, he began working with Lady Bird Johnson to form what would later become the Town Lake Beautification Committee. Mrs. Johnson was a primary contributor to the effort of improving the then “Town Lake”, which had become polluted with chemicals from area industry, littered with trash and had been left derelict without major oversight. In 1971, with the assistance of members including Emma Long, Jim Pfluger and Mrs. Roy Butler, the Town Lake Beautification Committee was officially off and running.
With the support of the local community and with new dams in place on the Highland Lakes, the sole purpose and goal of the project was to beautify the banks of Town Lake with trees and trails for Austinites to enjoy. A $2.5 million dollar Capital Improvement Project bond for the years 1975-1977, approved by tax payers provided funding for the undertaking. Town Lake Metropolitan Park resulted as a dividend of the committee’s hard work and foresight – covering an estimated 5 miles of the north and south shores of the lake. The park includes numerous sports parks, outdoor event venues (Auditorium Shores), boat/kayak/canoe rental locations, swimming pools, picnic tables with grills, miles of running trails, pedestrian bridges (one currently under construction), restrooms, Butler Park (on the south side), many varieties of trees, look out points and more.
More History from Wikipedia:
By the 1970s, Town Lake and its shoreline had become neglected, polluted and overgrown with weeds. KTBC referred to the lake as an “eyesore.” During his two terms in office (1971–1975), the Mayor of Austin Roy Butler partnered with former United States First Lady Lady Bird Johnson to establish the Town Lake Beautification Committee with the purpose of transforming the Town Lake area into a useable recreation area. A system of hike and bike trails was built along the shoreline of the lake in the 1970s, establishing (what was then known as) Town Lake as a major recreational attraction for the city of Austin.
One of the most popular features of Metropolitan Park are the miles of hike and bike trails which run along both sides of Town Lake and allow runners and bikers a continuous exercise trail with the best view in town. Living a healthy lifestyle (including regular outdoor exercise) is considered to be in vogue in Austin, as is being seen on the hike and bike trail around Town Lake. Even celebrities like Luke Wilson, Lance Armstrong and our own Texas Governor, Rick Perry are rumored to be runners on Town Lake.
Many people know that the Colorado River is the primary source of water for Town Lake; however, there are also natural artesian springs near Deep Eddy which also act as a source of water for the lake. Today these natural springs are covered by the lake but still flow and can be seen by boat. Only sailing, rowing, kayaking, canoeing and other non-motorized water sports are permitted on Town Lake. Motorized craft of any kind (other than those specially authorized by the City of Austin are not allowed on any part of Town Lake.
Town Lake officially became “Lady Bird Lake” in July 2007 when Austin’s City Council unanimously affirmed the resolution.
Here’s some great information about specific locations found on Town Lake, courtesy of http://www.texasescapes.com…
On the North Shore of Lady Bird Lake:
A small 2.5-acre park between Longhorn Dam and Metz Park.
Popular for Hispanic celebrations, this sixty-acre park also has displays of exotic flora and a lagoon. Fiesta Gardens also has a boat launch and lots of open grassy space.
Twenty-six acres of grassy park between IH35 and Congress Avenue. The park is filled with gazebos, boat launches and docks.
Congress Avenue Bridge
Built in 1910. A relief exhibit at the intersection of Congress Avenue and East Cesar Chavez (north of the river, in the southwest corner) shows Austin as it looked in 1889. It is displayed from the perspective as it would have appeared had you been standing in the same spot in 1889.
South First Street Bridge
Also known as the W.F. Drake, Jr. Bridge. Drake was mayor of Austin between 1951-1953.
An eighteen-acre stretch between Congress Avenue and Lamar Boulevard. This section includes Buford Tower, dedicated in 1978 to Fire Department Captain James T. Buford for giving his life in the line of duty to the citizens of Austin during a water rescue. Buford Tower was originally built in 1930 as a training place for Austin’s firefighters.
Extends from Lamar Boulevard to Johnson Creek. This forty-acre park includes several ballfields.
Parallels the University of Texas property west to Red Bud Trail and has one acre of lake access.
Red Bud Isle
Thirteen acres of primitive wilderness just below Tom Miller Dam. It is literally an island; you can picnic and access the lake from a circular drive of very rough road.
Emmett Shelton Bridge
This bridge was the first low-water bridge over Town Lake. Originally built in 1849, it was the gateway to the foothills west of Lake Austin. Shelton is an attorney, author, land developer, marine captain, community benefactor, historian, and poet. There is a historical plaque just west of the bridge with an original block of Texas red granite that was part of the first dam built on Lake Austin in 1893 and destroyed by the flood of 1900. Portions of the bridge remain submerged by the water.
Tom Miller Dam
Finished in 1940, this was the third dam built in this spot, the previous dams having been destroyed by flooding of the Colorado River. The dam is accessible from Lake Austin Boulevard at Red Bud Trail. Tom Miller was mayor of Austin.
On the South Shore of Lady Bird Lake:
Has scenic overlooks and picnic areas.
Thirty-five-acre undeveloped park east of the Kasuba property to Pleasant Valley Road.
A popular gathering place for free concerts and other public festivals. It is a flat, grassy area from the South First Street Bridge to Lamar Boulevard. Twenty-five acres in all, it has a gazebo, a reflection pool, and numerous rest areas.
Named for Roy Butler, mayor of Austin in the early 1970s. Butler Shores has parking and is adjacent to the Parks and Recreation Department headquarters. It extends from the Lamar Bridge to Barton Creek, and has seven acres of lake frontage.
For a spectacular view of Town Lake and Austin‘s skyline, check out Lou Neff Point located in Zilker Park. Isabella Neff was the namesake of the very first state park in Texas, and Lou Neff is a relative.
Lady Bird Lake is the easternmost lake of a chain of reservoirs on the Colorado River. This chain, known locally as the Texas Highland Lakes, also includes Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls, Lake Travis, and Lake Austin.